Mineral Resources Limited (MinRes) has committed $600,000 to fund the expansion of life-changing ear and hearing services into some of Western Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities.
The three-year funding commitment from MinRes will bolster the Lions Healthy Hearing Outback program run by Ear Science Institute Australia, Rural Health West and the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS). Since 2014, the program has co-ordinated clinical teams, comprised of audiologists and ear, nose and throat consultants, to assess and treat ear disease and hearing loss in the East Pilbara.
L to R: Sandra Bellekom, Robby Chibawe & Justin Langer
Thanks to the support of MinRes, which is proud to support the communities in which it operates, this specialist ear care will be more accessible and provided closer to home to communities in Newman, Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu and Kunawarritji.
The partnership will help deliver a new integrated service model that combines ear, nose and throat services via telehealth (TeleENT) with on-the-ground resources. TeleENT provides fast and effective diagnosis, while a dedicated Ear Health Champion will give on-the-ground logistical support to those patients that need treatment or surgery.
These innovations will provide on Country care to traditional owners in the East Pilbara region, the Nyiyaparli and Martu people, with the aim of improving surgical attendance to levels where real and lasting impact can be achieved.
Ear disease and associated hearing loss are often described as the silent factor contributing to poor educational, social and employment outcomes within First Nations communities. Up to nine in 10 Aboriginal children in remote areas experience serious middle ear infections that can cause hearing loss, with ear disease (otitis media) present in 40% of Indigenous babies.
For these children, hearing loss often occurs, impacting their language development, social development and mental health. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows First Nations children with hearing loss have significantly reduced rates of completing high school and employment.
Closing the inequity gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children by preventing and curing ear disease is a high priority at Ear Science Institute Australia, a world-leading WA-based medical research institute.
MinRes Managing Director Chris Ellison said: “MinRes is proud to partner with Ear Science to help expand this life-changing ear health service into some of Western Australia’s most remote communities.
“Far too many Aboriginal children experience ear disease and hearing loss, and Ear Science Institute are at the forefront of reducing that devasting burden.”
Australian cricket great Justin Langer, who was appointed to the MinRes board in December, has been an Ear Science ambassador since 2021 after he experienced his own hearing and ear-related issues.
Ear Science Institute Australia Chief Executive Officer Sandra Bellekom said: “The services we provide on the ground are vital, and in combination with tailored hearing therapeutic treatments, we are working towards profound future change.
“With the support of partners such as MinRes, we want to change the trajectory of the lives of Indigenous children, empower them to graduate high school, develop a career and grow to become the leaders of tomorrow.”
PAMS Chief Executive Officer Robby Chiabawe added: “We have a real and immediate need for comprehensive end-to-end services within the region to support the hearing health and long-term well-being of members of our community, particularly our children.
“We have come so far as a team, but we need to do everything within our power to improve surgical attendance and increase awareness of the importance of hearing health within our most remote communities. We shouldn’t have to wait until it’s too late for our children to hear and to learn.”